Never Too Late - Alexis Winter



“Mom! Have you seen my cap and gown?” my daughter, Erin, yells from up in her bedroom.

“Check the laundry room,” I shout back as I pour coffee into my to-go cup.

She comes running down the stairs, into the kitchen, and to the laundry room at record speed.

I laugh and shake my head when her sock-covered feet cause her to slide across the floor, making her look like a cartoon character who’s spinning out.

I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the glass of the microwave that’s positioned above the stove, and my smile falls. I get lost as I stare at the reflection of a woman I don’t even know anymore. How’d I get here? It seems like it was only yesterday when I was eighteen, full of excitement for the promise of a bright future. Now I’m forty years old, have crow’s feet around my eyes, and my only child is graduating from high school.

Erin comes back into the kitchen with her cap and gown in hand. She tosses them down onto the table with her books, and she grabs her shoes. “Did you remember the bake sale tomorrow to help the new senior cheerleaders pay for their uniforms?”

I nod. “I’ll pick something up after your ceremony,” I promise.

A horn honks, and I look out the bay window in the front of the house to see Erin’s boyfriend, Brock, waiting in the driveway.

“Got to go, Mom,” Erin says, standing and grabbing her things.

“Hey, wait.” I put down my coffee and take the few steps to her.

“What?” Her eyes are wide and her brows are raised. She’s anxious to get to school, to say goodbye to her high school years.

“Slow down a moment and let me look at you.” I push her blond hair behind her shoulders so I can clearly view her beautiful face. She looks so much like I did at her age. Her blue eyes match mine but hers aren’t surrounded by wrinkles. Her pink lips are full and plump, and her smile can stop anyone in their tracks. She has a bright future, and it’s only a matter of time before she leaves me and our small town in Illinois to join some of the brightest minds in the world at Harvard University.

“Mom, I’m going to be late,” she complains, rolling her striking blue eyes, but she can’t hide that smile.

I laugh. “You’re late every day,” I point out. “Plus, who cares? It’s your last day. What are they going to do, withhold your diploma?”

Her eyes grow wide, and her back gets ramrod straight as panic sets in. “Can they do that?”

I laugh. “No.” I pull her in for a hug. “I just wanted to remind you to go slow today, to take it all in. This is the last day. Your life is about to change in so many ways, and you’ll never get this back.”

She pulls back with a sweet smile, clearly more relaxed now. “Thanks, Mom. I love you.”

“I love you too.” I step back and pick up my coffee.

“Hey, is Dad going to make it to graduation tonight?”

I shrug. “I haven’t talked to him all week. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

She smiles before tugging open the door. I stand and watch out the window as she runs across the yard to the awaiting truck. Her boyfriend leans across the cab and opens the door for her. She climbs up, and they meet in the middle for a quick kiss. Seconds later, they’re backing out of the drive, ready to finish their last day of high school.

With the house now empty, I grab my purse and keys and shut off the lights as I make my way to the front door. I set the alarm and pull the door closed behind me, spinning around to lock it. I turn and walk off the porch and down the sidewalk to my black Audi parked in the driveway. I can’t help but notice how well the roses are blooming along the front of the house and how the landscaper did an amazing job at trimming the hedges to make the house look like the perfect family home.

That’s what everyone thinks, anyway. This is the perfect home for the perfect family. All they see is the nice house, nice cars, our beautiful, smart daughter who’s about to leave for an Ivy League college, and my husband who has a good job and makes lots of money. They don’t see that he’s gone more